Violent and destructive flooding has always been a problem on the Rappahannock River Many bridges have stood on the sites of the present Falmouth and Chatham Bridges only to be washed away by floods or ice dams. One newspaper reported:
"The heavy and continuous rain of the past few days resulted in a tremendous freshet in the Rappahannock River, the like of which has not been known since 1814. On Wednesday morning, the swollen, turbid mass of water, increasing rapidly in height and volume, raged onward with such force as to sweep away panel after panel of the Falmouth Bridge, which with similar velocity, borne down by the impetuous current, struck the Chatham Bridge…and carried off about one-third of that structure…In a few hours the whole of Falmouth Bridge had disappeared, and from bank to bank surged the restless tide of waters…Captain Stevens we believe, was accidentally carried down the river on a portion of Falmouth Bridge, but rescued near French John's after an exciting involuntary voyage" (Fredericksburg News, Apr. 12, 1861).